Day 129: Jesus faced down temptation

John 18:28-38; Luke 23:7-12 (spring AD 30, Friday of Passion Week)

The religious leaders took the Son of God to the idolatrous Roman governor, in hopes of having the Son of God executed by the Roman authorities. As they went to the governor, they made sure to be ceremonially clean by not going inside, as to enter a Gentile dwelling on the Sabbath would have made them unclean. John’s detail (v.28) may seem minor but oozes a pus-like irony.

They then had the chutzpah to get smart with Pilate, continuing to treat him with ill-disguised loathing. When he asked what the charges were, they didn’t really have any, so they just said they wouldn’t have taken Jesus there if he wasn’t a criminal. Pilate questioned Jesus and didn’t have a problem with him either except that Pilate didn’t believe in absolute truth and Jesus did.

Relieved to hear that “Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction” (Luke 23:7), Pilate packed Jesus off to him, happy to avoid the awkward situation with the Jewish rulers. This was the same King Herod who’d ordered the beheading of John the Baptist and who, six years later, would be sent to exile in Spain after being accused of plotting against the Roman Emperor Caligula.

When Jesus wouldn’t perform miracles for Herod’s entertainment, the king he resorted to ridicule and mockery. Then he sent Jesus – who’d become a cultural hot potato – back to Pilate.

What did Jesus do during these two times of false accusation, mockery and insult?

Jesus pointed out he was no threat to the rulers as his kingdom was of another world, not this one. (Pilate, being wilfully or unintentionally dim, could only reply, “You are a king, then!”, v.37).

Jesus said that his purpose was to speak the truth.

Jesus refused to answer questions that were asked in bad faith.

Jesus didn’t respond to the “vehement” accusations of the religious rulers.

Jesus declined to perform miracles to impress Herod.

Jesus’ example here isn’t so much, for me, grace under fire, or even patience (though he epitomised both those virtues). It’s the mind-bogglingly humble submission to his heavenly Father’s will that marked him as being so far apart from the rest of us. He was smarter, quicker of wit and more knowledgeable than everyone in the room with him, and he knew it. But he didn’t use any of that to try and rescue himself from the situation, even though it would have been easy.

So think on those temptations, as death approached, that Jesus faced down for you. And during these final three devotionals in the run-up to the crucifixion, make note of all the opportunities – temptations – Jesus had to save himself from agonising death, and thank God that he resisted all of them.

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